Unlike many of today’s predictable, cookie cutter concept musicians, Paul Simon has forever followed his heart, and nothing is more evident than with Seven Psalms, the now 81 year-old singer-songwriter’s newest a 33-minute suite whose title and concept literally came to him in a dream.
Like the iconic musician’s modern classics in the gospel (“Loves Me Like a Rock”) and hymnal (“Bridge Over Troubled Water”) traditions, spiritual questions have long stimulated Simon’s lyrical content, atypical angles like “Mother and Child Reunion” through to 2011’s So Beautiful or So What, where landing in “The Afterlife” resembled a trip to the DMV and his “Questions for the Angels” included, “Will I wake up from these violent dreams/With my hair as white as the morning moon?”
Within his latest suite, Simon sings “Dip your hand in heaven’s waters/God’s imagination,” on “Your Forgiveness.” Looking at life has forever been one of this artist’s song specialties, and he does so throughout Seven Psalms. According to Paul, the words came to him in dream fragments and the supporting melody music is serious. Forever a talented guitarist, Paul’s playing echoes with an interconnected beauty, especially on “My Professional Opinion,” where laidback percussion, tight harmonies from the British choir VOCES8, and staccato strings add texture to the arrangement, as does the voice of Simon’s wife, Edie Brickell.
Simon’s ability to make a spiritual setting feel commonplace is evident in ‘Seven Psalms’ and he demonstrates his unique sense of humor in such lyrics as “I heard two cows in a conversation/One called the other one a name/In my professional opinion/All cows in the country must bear the blame.” In one recurring section, dubbed “The Lord,” we learn that “The Lord is my engineer/The Lord is my record producer/The Lord is the music I hear/Deep in the valley of elusive.” And when he and Brickell finish this extended project by harmonizing, “Children, get ready/It’s time to come home/Amen,” it is proof positive that Paul Simon reigns supreme as one of America’s greatest songwriters.